Respectful Email Communication in Condos: A Primer for Unit Owners
From the CCI Review 2022/2023-3 March 2023 issue of the CCI London Chapter
While unit owners have the right to raise concerns and ask questions, owners and occupants do not have the right to harass the condominium manager or send aggressive or inappropriate correspondence. All concerns and questions should be raised in a calm and civil manner and using email communication to harass the condominium manager or board members is not appropriate or acceptable.
The condo corporation should not prevent owners from making reasonable comments or complaints regarding issues in the corporation, or exercising their ordinary rights; however, those comments and concerns must be communicated respectfully. We know that issues may arise that are important to individuals and that there may be strong feelings involved. Despite this, workplace harassment has been determined by the Superior Court in Ontario to be an unsafe condition, which is not permitted to exist within a condominium corporation. Quite simply, condo managers and board members should not be forced to endure harassing communication from unit owners.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult for some people to determine how to raise a concern or ask questions in a calm and civil matter, or to reflect when their written communication is becoming aggressive or harassing. In order to assist people, our office has started providing unit owners with a list of what they should or should not do when communicating in writing. This list has been modified from the Condominium Authority Tribunal’s statement about “netiquette” – polite and respectful online communications:
- Do “remember the human.” It can be easy to forget that there is a person on the other side of an e-mail. Do not write anything you would not be comfortable saying face-to-face.
- Do use good manners. Do not ever use offensive or inappropriate language. A written message, especially on the internet, is permanent.
- Do be patient with the recipient of the communication. Condominium managers can receive hundreds of emails each day. Managers work diligently to respond promptly to each e-mail that they receive, but you may not receive a response as quickly as you wish. If you do want to send a follow up e-mail, do be courteous. If you wrote an impolite message, consider sending a follow-up message to apologize for that prior e-mail.
- Do think and organize your thoughts before you hit “Send.” You may wish to use the “draft message” function to save messages before you send them. Re-read your message to make sure you have clearly communicated your feelings or interests, and why you want something to be done. Make sure you have the right tone. Think about what the reader would think or feel when they read your message.
- Do be clear and focused. Try using bullets or numbered lists to help you organize your points. Focus on one subject in each message. Do not write overly long messages, and do not write about things that are unrelated to the request that you are making.
- Do use appropriate and helpful subject lines. Clear subject lines help to ensure that the condo manager and board can determine what the email is about quickly.
- Do not send repeated messages. Give the Corporation a chance to respond. The Board is a volunteer Board and, unless a matter is urgent, the Board will consider your e-mail correspondence at their next regularly scheduled Board meeting. Your email to the Manager may have been placed on the agenda for the next Board meeting and it may take some time for the Board to meet and consider what you have said.
- Do not use capitals except for proper nouns or at the beginning of a sentence. Using all caps can be interpreted as SHOUTING. Do not use multiple exclamation points!!! or questions marks??? The reader may see these as aggressive.
- Do not use sarcasm and avoid humor unless you are sure it will be understood. In written communications, it can be easy to “miss the joke.”
Managers and board members should not have to endure aggressive and disruptive correspondence. If a unit owner has been directed a number of times to stop sending these types of correspondence, additional steps may need to be taken. These additional steps may include limiting how a unit owner is permitted to communicate with the condo manager or the condo corporation.
It has been a challenging number of years and we recognize that emotions can take over, particularly where someone’s home is concerned. The above list is intended to be a tool to assist unit owners in raising their concerns in a respectful manner, that will prevent disputes from escalating. Living and working in a condominium community can be challenging and we all have a responsibility to ensure that our communications are appropriate and respectful.
Laura Gurr is a partner with Cohen Highley LLP and is part of the multiresidential housing group. Her practice focuses on condominium law, acting for condominium corporations, property managers, and developers in a broad range of litigation, operational and governance matters. Laura is actively involved in the condominium and multi-residential housing industry. She regularly writes and speaks about legal issues affecting the industry. Since 2014, Laura has been a board member of the Canadian Condominium Institute (London Chapter) and the board of directors for Homes Unlimited (London) Inc.
Laura was first elected to the CCI Board in 2016. She brought her expertise, enthusiasm and an intense willingness to share in her contributions as a writer, presenter and instructor.
She continues to be a leader in providing clarity to the amendments to the Condominium Act, 1998 as they unfold. Laura was also recognized for her business achievement and community involvement and was a recipient of the 20 Under 40 by Business London in 2015.
Laura was awarded her Leader of the Canadian Condominium Institute (LCCI ) designation by CCI-N in November 2022.
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